Why the Democrats Lost

Hillary: too much hedging, not enough honesty

W.J. Astore

I’ve read a lot of articles on why the Democrats lost the presidency.  All sorts of reasons have been cited.  Some people have blamed Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein.  Others have blamed Comey and the FBI, or Republicans for voter suppression, or white women for voting for Trump, or a message that was too liberal or progressive or too supportive of diversity (too much LGBTQ and transsexuals sharing bathrooms with little girls, and so on).

All of this is nonsense.  The Democrats lost because they fielded a candidate whose personal negatives were too high, whose image as a thoroughly establishment candidate was out of tune with too many people, people seeking change at almost any price.

Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses in this election were legion.  She was an indifferent campaigner.  She chose a man who was largely unknown as her running mate.  She refused to embrace a progressive agenda.  She ran as the only “sane” alternative to her rival, but she had no clear message of her own: just more of the same.  Her motto, “stronger together,” was insipid.  She ran as a hawk on national defense.  Finally, too many people were just tired of the Clintons, just as too many Republicans were tired of the Bushes, hence the early exit by Jeb! Bush.

Here’s what I wrote just after Hillary clinched the nomination in early June:

I remember the first commercial Hillary made, the announcement of her candidacy.  A tedious spot, it focused on her grandmotherly qualities.  It had no vision, no bite, and little hope.  It was about trying to make us feel comfortable with Hillary.  Hey, she’s a mom and a grandma!  Other women like her!  She’s just like us!

It went downhill from there.  Hillary’s campaign has been carefully scripted and modulated, the opposite of impassioned.  Vapidness replaced vision.  That’s why a democratic socialist Jew from Vermont via Brooklyn [Bernie Sanders] gave her a run for her money, because she had no passion or vision and he did (and does).

For me, the defining moment of their debates came when Bernie argued strongly for a $15.00 minimum wage for workers and Hillary was content with offering workers a $12.00 wage. (More than enough, peasants!)  Combine that moment with her infamous statement about the gobs of money she made in three speeches to Goldman Sachs (“Well, that’s what they offered”) and you get a clear sense of who she is and what she’s about.

A quick note: A nursing aide making Hillary’s generous $12.00 hourly wage at 40 hours a week would take 28 years to earn the $675,000 that Clinton “earned” in a few short hours giving those speeches.

As Peter Van Buren explained at his blog, We Meant Well, Hillary’s email controversy “in many voters’ minds became shorthand for a range of issues related to trust, ethics, and propriety, including the Clinton Foundation, pay-for-play, and the Goldman-Sachs speeches.”

Too many people simply didn’t trust Hillary.  I myself didn’t vote for Trump, but I also couldn’t vote for Clinton. For different reasons, I didn’t trust either one.

Hillary could have settled the email controversy fairly easily.  Recall that the story broke back in March of 2015.  All she had to say then was, “I was stupid — and careless — and I’m sorry. I learned my lesson. It won’t happen again.”

But no … being Hillary means never having to say you’re sorry.  Not in a contrite and sincere and fulsome way.

And that’s the primary reason why the Democrats lost the election.

10 thoughts on “Why the Democrats Lost

  1. Spot on.!!can’t quibble with anything you said. All I kept hearing from people, she broke the law like they did in the past and got away with it. Happiest outcome was we won’t hear anymore about Clintons. Unfortunately, the sad part is we have to wait to see if the voters bought a “pig in a poke.” I know I am telling my age.


  2. Clinton lost because the election was rigged against her, but yes, she was a weak candidate who should have been beyond the reach of the fraud.


  3. Ten years ago, I explained in verse how and why You-Know-Her would lose any possible chance at the U.S. presidency: first, to an unknown black freshman Senator and, second, to a rookie billionaire buffoon reality-tv personality. What else but defeat could one possibly expect from a cowardly opportunist who let a dyslexic dwarf chimpanzee like Deputy Dubya Bush make a monkey out of her when he browbeat her into cravenly enabling his stud-hamster vendetta against the toothless Iraqi tinpot ruler Saddam “He tried to kill my daddy” Hussein? What else but predictable losing could one expect from the spineless, shape-shifting:

    Buffaloed Girl
    (Somewhat after the traditional song of a similar name)

    Buffaloed girl, won’t you come out tonight?
    Bask in your fright; hide in plain sight.
    Buffaloed girl don’t you put up a fight;
    Just dance to the right with the goons!

    Buffaloed girl, don’t you burn any flags;
    Marry some fags; count body bags.
    Buffaloed girl, wrapped in riches not rags,
    Just keep raking in those doubloons!

    Buffaloed girl, send our troops to Iraq!
    Then leave them there! Don’t bring them back!
    Buffaloed girl, cover George Bush’s back,
    And scrape up a few more platoons!

    Buffaloed girl, just stay out of the fray.
    Keep your mouth shut! Keep making hay!
    Buffaloed girl, while the cat is away
    Just keep playing mice with buffoons.

    Buffaloed girl, don’t you hear the troops cry?
    Wounded for wrongs; dead for a lie
    Buffaloed girl, look in everyone’s eye
    And then soil your own pantaloons

    Buffaloed girl, under Lieberman’s wing
    Saving his job, that’s the main thing
    Buffaloed girl, you and Holy Joe sing
    The duet of right-wing spittoons

    Buffaloed girl, rail at video games
    Focus group that; spout the right frames
    Buffaloed girl, don’t you name any names
    Just save children from their cartoons

    Buffaloed girl, take a “listening” tour
    If you don’t know; if you’re not sure
    Buffaloed girl, voters like their fake “pure”
    Like war debt that simply balloons

    Buffaloed girl, when it counted you hid
    Don’t try to lie. That’s what you did
    Buffaloed girl, Dubya made you his kid
    When you bought the crap that he croons

    Buffaloed girl, your irrelevance mounts
    Even in small, measured amounts
    If “it” takes a village, by all your accounts
    Then take “it” to Mars and its moons

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006


  4. A quick note. A reader wrote to me about voter suppression, which he rightly said is not nonsense. My point was this: By “nonsense” I meant not that suppression isn’t a problem, but that it wasn’t the primary reason why she lost. And indeed despite voter suppression Hillary won the popular vote by 1.7 million — and still climbing, apparently.


  5. This column is an abomination! I have just read some of your other columns and while progressive opinionated, they contained some balance and truth. This assassination on Hillary is no better than the most horrific right wing Hillary haters. Your reasons why Hillary lost that you reject fall in the category of reality, regardless. You take is her personal negatives. YOU ARE WRONG IN THE BIG PICTURE. Hillary lost for the practical reason that people like you, republicans with a decades long hate agenda and a few “other” party supporters did vote for her or did NOT VOTE AT ALL, or hard headed Bernie supporters who voted Trump or stayed home. Just imagine if these groups had voted for her, she would have won handily. While the reasons you rejected as the true cause did indeed measure into the equation along with your reason of personal negatives….all this was blown away with the voting pattern I described. After all, her popular vote advantage is approaching $2 million
    …..that is a a hell of a lot of people who were not put off by personal negatives. (like me).
    I would add that somehow the manipulation of the electoral college was the victor.


    1. For what it’s worth, I live in an overwhelmingly “blue” state, so my vote, which was for a 3rd-party candidate, did not elect Trump.

      Yes, Hillary won the popular vote. Sadly, that doesn’t matter in our system of government. The electoral college matters, and she lost there. She lost under the rules and laws of our nation. If we don’t like that, we need to change those rules and laws.

      A final point: Hillary’s negatives worked to keep some people away from the polls. Hillary’s negatives, and the DNC’s collusion against Bernie Sanders, also cost her votes. That’s not the fault of “hard-headed” Bernie supporters: that’s the fault of Hillary and the DNC.


    2. …and why, exactly, did Ms Clinton so pointedly disregard and insult the millions of supporters of Mr Sanders?


      1. “Why, exactly, did Ms Clinton so pointedly disregard and insult the millions of supporters of Mr Sanders?”

        Because, as You-Know-Her’s husband Bill Clinton once arrogantly said of these ostensibly “leftist” citizens and voters: “They’ve got nowhere else to go.”

        Unfortunately for Bawl and Pillory Clinton (the self-advertised “two for the price of one”) these citizens and voters found three places to go on election day: namely, (1) home, (2) third-party candidates like Dr. Jill Stein, or even, (3) Donald Trump.

        Now, thanks to Republican-wanna-be “centrists” like the Clintons and Barack Obama, the national Democratic Party finds itself with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Having sold out its working-class and anti-war roots to Wall Street stock speculators, Silicon Valley “innovators and entrepreneurs,” and Martha’s Vineyard vacationing millionaire donors, these leisure-class “professionals” and truly “serious” people have nothing to offer America but a tail-gunner-Joe-McCarthy jihad against the nefarious “Russians” and one Australian journalist, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, for daring to commit journalism in the United States during the Presidential election campaigns — a.k.a. infantile character assassinations — that never cease for a moment.

        On a recent six-week visit to the United States, I purchased a good book to read on the plane going home to Taiwan: Listen Liberal: or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People, by Thomas Frank (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2016). He explains all this in excruciating detail. Just a sampling:

        “This is not politics. It’s an imitation of politics. It feels political, yes: it’s highly moralistic, it sets up an easy melodrama of good versus bad, it allows you to make all kinds of judgements about people you disagree with, but ultimately its a diversion, a way of putting across a policy program while avoiding any sincere discussion of the policies in question. The virtue-quest is an exciting moral crusade that seems to be extremely important but at the conclusion of which you discover you’ve got little to show for it besides NAFTA, bank deregulation, and a prison spree.”

        “This book is about Democrats, but of course Republicans do it too. The culture wars unfold in precisely the same way as the liberal virtue-quest: they are an exciting ersatz politics that seem to be really important but at the conclusion of which voters discover that they’ve got little to show for it all besides more free trade agreements, more bank deregulation, and a different prison spree.”

        Republican culture-war distraction has triumphed for the moment over Democratic virtue-quest distraction, and the working class will get the royal screwing that it always gets from Republicans and their fellow-traveling Democrats. The future does not look bright for working-class Americans and their families. As Thomas Frank concludes:

        “Yet it will go on, because the most direct solutions to the problem are off the table for the moment. The Democrats have no interest in reforming themselves in a more egalitarian way. There is little the rest of us can do, given the current legal arrangements of this country, to build a vital third-party movement or to revive organized labor, the one social movement that is committed by its nature to pushing back against the inequality trend.

        “What we can do is strip away the Democrat’s precious sense of their own moral probity — to make liberals live without the comforting knowledge that the righteousness is always on their side. It is that sensibility after all, that prevents so many good-hearted rank-and-file Democrats from understanding how starkly and how deliberately their political leaders contradict their values. Once that contradiction has been made manifest — once the smooth, seamless sense of liberal virtue has been cracked, anything becomes possible. The course of the party and the course of the country can both be changed, but only after we understand that the problem is us.”

        A very good book about the Democratic Party by Thomas Frank, like his other books about the Republican Party What’s the Matter With Kansas? and One Market Under God.

        I hope that this material in some way addresses your question about the clueless and insulting behavior of You-Know-Her and the Democratic Party establishment, not just in the recent presidential election, but for the last two Democratic Party presidential administrations.


  6. Welcome back, Mike!

    Yes, quite accurate, I think, about the Clintons and the DNC.

    Bernie Sanders had the right idea. He championed issues that mattered to workers. And for that he was sent into the cornfield by the petty tyrants of the DNC.

    So now we have Trump … and his anti-government. We live in interesting times.


    1. I’ve long read and studied Frank’s book, and fine only one niggle to disagree with–but it’s a big one. He continues to cast aspersions on “liberals,” as if the Clintons are representative of that identity. No, they and their followers are not liberals, in any sense of the word. Frank allows them, encourages them, enables them, to hijack that proud heritage.

      In that sense he continues the negative connotations, maintaining it as a slur, as was begun in the nineties on a systematic basis by those running the Republican Party.

      No, Thomas Frank, the liberals are still here, searching for someone to represent them and their studied and committed passion for justice, fairness, and a focus on the importance of the commons.


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